You’ve probably heard of the Fierce Five – the U.S gymnastics team that absolutely dominated the Summer Olympics in 2012. McKayla Maroney was ⅕ of the Fierce Five and impressed the world with her beauty and natural talent. But just like her floor routines, her life has been full of twists and turns…
A turbulent career
After the initial success of the 2012 Olympic Games, Maroney has adorned the headlines for all the wrong reasons. But has she managed to pick herself back up again?
Her early years
McKayla Maroney hasn’t always been a gold-medal winning gymnast – but her talent was noticeable from an early age. Maroney was born on December 9, 1995, and was born into the world of sport. Her father was once a keen football player at star quarterback at Purdue University, and her mother was a professional figure skater. So, she had some pretty impressive genes passed down to her. McKayla always knew she wanted to pursue gymnastics and was homeschooled to give her more time to train.
When she was just a toddler, Maroney would always monkey around with her older siblings, Kav and Tarryn. The siblings would get up to all kinds of mischief, which inspired her passion for gymnastics. They would often watch Tarzan together, and McKayla wound spend the rest of the day walking on all fours, jumping around and swinging throughout the house. Her mother knew McKayla needed a way to expel her energy, and took her to gymnastics classes at the tender age of two.
As soon as she set foot inside the gymnastics gym, McKayla knew she was at home and spent her younger years attending classes and improving her craft. When she was 9-years-old, McKayla decided to take her passion to the next level and joined the prestigious Gym-Max in California. Even though she was still young, McKayla had a big dream – she was going to compete at the Olympics. This dream pushed her to the top of her classes, and she soon dominated the competition.
An Olympic memory
For as long as McKayla could remember, she had wanted to make it to the Olympics. She remembered watching gold-medal winner Carly Patterson at the 2004 Olympic Trials. In fact, it was one of her earliest memories. She loved watching her impressive floor routine, and Patterson soon became her gymnastic idol. Over the course of her own career, McKayla looked up to the gymnast and hoped to make it into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame alongside her.
An early worry
However, her childhood was not always filled with gymnastics training and watching her favorite gymnasts in action – McKayla spent a lot of time worrying about her future. One thing she loved about gymnastics was the pretty leotards and the fact that the gymnasts were all so tiny and petite, and McKayla worried she would soon be too big to compete. Her dad stood at a whopping 6’3” and her mom at 5’2”, and she didn’t know which one she would take after.
Her first major competition
At just 13-years-old, McKayla Maroney competed in her first major competition – the Visa Championship, which took place in Dallas, Texas. It was clear from the get-go that despite her young age, Maroney had what it took to dominate the world of gymnastics. She excelled in the vault round and came third overall in the vault final. The whole experience was overwhelming for the teenager, but she took it in her stride and impressed the judges with her talent and her composure.
Getting better and better
McKayla was improving at an alarming rate, and she trumped her previous score at the Visa Championships the next year. This time, she traveled to Hartford, Connecticut – and it was well worth the trip. McKayla took the bronze position for her all-around competition and quickly found herself in the Visa Championships finals, where she came seventh on the beam, fourth for her floor routine, and snagged first place on the vault. She was becoming a force to be reckoned with.
Taking the world by storm
Soon enough, McKayla had caught the attention of some of the biggest coaches in America and was approached to compete in the Pan American Championships in Mexico. Although she was expected to trump the competition, her valiant efforts and first place finish on floor and vault secured an overall win for the United States Gymnastics team, and she was dubbed the star of the competition. After this competition, it was clear that McKayla Maroney would take the world by storm.
A trip to Europe
In 2011, McKayla decided to take her talent across the pond and competed in the City of Jesolo Trophy, which took place in Italy. McKayla did not disappoint, and excelled in every round of the competition, solidifying the fact that she was one of the best gymnasts in the international circuit. That same year, she returned to the Visa Championships for the third time and triumphed over the competition. She took the silver medal in the all-around competition and dominated the final.
Land of the Rising Sun
Asia is well-known for producing some of the most agile and competitive gymnasts in the business, and McKayla wanted to be a part of that. In 2011, she traveled to Japan to compete in the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships with the American team. She excelled in all rounds of the competition and helped secure America a gold medal. Maroney maintained that her confidence in her own ability, as well as her talented teammates, helped her in these competitions.
The Fab Five
It’s no surprise that McKayla had complete faith and confidence in her team – because they were also dominating the gymnastics circuit with their incredible talent. As the US team rose to success, Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber, Kyla Ross, Aly Raisman and McKalya Maroney were known as the Fab Five, as they really could do no wrong. Their competitors were intimidated by their impressive collection of medals, which was a good sign, considering the Olympics were getting ever closer…
Changing their name
Although they loved their newfound fame, McKayla and Jordyn weren’t impressed with their name – especially as they realized the name ‘Fab Five’ was associated with Duran Duran and The University of Michigan’s basketball team. They wanted something original, and something that really fit them as a team. So, the gymnasts started searching for words that began with the letter ‘F’ and narrowed down their options. Were they going to be the Feisty Five or the Fierce Five? Well, we know the answer…
With a new name under their belt, the Fierce Five were ready to take on the 2012 London Olympics. As the U.S Gymnastics team descended onto the arena, the golds were falling into their hands. The Fierce Five impressed the world and the judges with their talents, and McKayla secured their team a definitive win. The team scored a whopping 9.733 overall, and McKayla maintained that she was proud of her whole team, as they all worked hard for the top spot.
A missed opportunity
McKayla Maroney performed exceptionally well in the London 2012 Olympics and won a silver medal for her own achievements on the vault. However, this was not enough for McKayla, and she was frustrated with herself. During her second attempt, Maroney fell while attempting an Amanar, and fell to the floor – ending a perfect 33-vault streak she had maintained. Although she still won a silver medal and led her team to a gold medal, she took the fall as a missed opportunity.
Knew she could do better
Although she was proud of her silver medal, McKayla knew she could have done more to achieve the gold medal – and she knew that was all down to her, her focus and her training. After the incident, she watched the replay of her fall to work out where she had gone wrong, and how she could improve next time. However, she also knew that she couldn’t be perfect for every performance and that these kinds of falls happen in gymnastics.
McKayla Maroney made her frustration pretty clear when she stood on the podium to receive her silver medal – and this moment changed her life forever. As she accepted the medal, she pouted her lips to one side of her face to show her disappointment in herself, and the cameras had a field day. The image was then picked up by a popular Tumblr blog who posted the photo with the caption ‘McKayla is not impressed.’ This image then went viral.
The McKayla Meme
The internet is a weird and wonderful place, and memes are becoming increasingly popular. As the ‘McKayla is not impressed’ photograph gained even more traction, those who were photoshop-savvy began to play around with the picture, and turn her unimpressed face into hilarious memes. Her face was often cropped out of the arena background, and placed in front of famous landscapes, including the Great Wall of China, popular film locations, and iconic moments in history. The meme is still hugely popular today.
Taking it on the chin
The ‘McKayla is not impressed’ meme became an overnight sensation, and McKayla Maroney was soon inundated with messages and comments about her newfound fame. However, instead of shying away from the spotlight, McKayla too the attention on the chin. She reported that she actually found the whole ordeal ‘kinda funny’ and made fun of the attention through appearances on shows such as The Late Show with David Letterman, Dancing with the Stars and The Colbert Report.
Obama is not impressed
The meme quickly became an international success, and everyone across the world had seen or heard of the hilarious photograph. The meme even made its way to Washington D.C and the White House. In 2012, McKayla and the Fierce Five were offered an invitation to visit the White House and meet President Obama. Instead of staying cool and collected, Barack Obama was starstruck to have a meme superstar in his office and just had to take a photograph with the gymnast.
A post-Olympic injury
After the success of the London 2012 Olympics, McKayla Maroney wanted to continue her gymnastics journey, and push herself even further. However, that dream came to an abrupt end in 2012 when she injured herself in the midst of their Champions Tour. McKayla was forced to take a break from the tour and was taken to hospital to determine the cause of her pain. It was discovered that she had fractured her tibia bone, and was forced to wear an immobilizer.
The road to recovery
Although McKayla rejoined the Champions Tour, she was not allowed to perform but had to sit in the stands as a supporter. After a few months of recovery and physiotherapy, Maroney was ready to return to the world of gymnastics and traveled to Antwerp to take part in the 2013 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. Her first performance back in the game was unlike any her fans and teammates had seen before, and she managed to win gold in the vault.
Defending her title
As if winning the gold medal in vault at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships wasn’t enough, McKayla also defended her title in the process. That year, she made history as the first American woman to win the vault gold medal for the second year in a row. This record came at the right time for McKayla, who was contemplating retirement from the world of gymnastics. Nevertheless, she came back with a score of 15.724 and redeemed her fall in London.
As ⅕ of the Fierce Five, and reigning gold medalist, McKayla Maroney was in high demand. During the 2013 Miss America Pageant, Maroney was enlisted to serve as one of the judges on the panel, alongside the likes of Mary Hart, Katie Stam Irk, and Cheryl Burke. The Miss America organizers believed she was the perfect woman for the job, as she was a woman of poise and precision from her gymnastics career, and she was used to people judging her own performances.
Thirty Seconds to Mars
That same year, McKayla Maroney was also given an opportunity millions of people across the world could only dream of – she appeared in the music video for Thirty Seconds To Mars’ song ‘Up In The Air.’ The gymnast was approached by the rock band’s frontman, Jared Leto, to star in the music video and provide artistic and symbolic gymnastic shots, that would work alongside the emotive lyrics. Maroney was also joined Jordyn Wieber, and the burlesque legend, Dita Von Teese.
Working with Adidas
There are many sportsmen and women across the world who work with major sports brands to sell their products – and in 2013, McKayla was chosen as the face of Adidas. Sports fans love the collaboration, as McKayla showed what it meant it meant to be a true sports star. She worked incredibly hard to get to the top spot, she sacrificed her education and a life to pursue her passion, and she trains scrupulously to maintain her status.
A TV superstar
It seems that this sportswoman has boundless amounts of talent in her, as she is also a talented actress. Alongside her intense training regime as an international gymnast, McKayla also made time to pursue a career in acting. She made a name for herself as an actress through her role in Hart of Dixie, where she appeared alongside Rachel Bilson. She’s also made cameos in various other TV shows, including Superstore and Bones. It seems there is nothing McKayla Maroney can’t do.
The beginning of the end
Unfortunately, McKayla Maroney took another turn for the worst in 2016. McKayla admitted in a GymCastic podcast that she had been struggling with constant injuries since her gold medal win during the London 2012 Olympics. This made it incredibly difficult to push herself even further within the boundaries of gymnastics and kept her at a plateau. Because of this, McKayla Maroney made the difficult decision to retire from competitive gymnastics. This was the beginning of the end.
Causing a stir
After the news of her retirement broke, McKayla Maroney adorned the headlines of magazines everywhere. However, that’s not the only reason she caused a stir. In May 2017, the retired gymnast posted a provocative video on her social media. Many fans believed she had been hacked, but Maroney confirmed she had posted the video herself. Her actions were criticized, as she is a role model to many young women – but McKayla denied she ever wanted to be a role model.
The next steps
Despite her rocky career and her controversies, McKayla Maroney has no regrets about how she has handled her early life, her career, and her personal choices. In fact, all she cares about right now is moving forward with the next step in her life. Now that she’s retired from the world of gymnastics, Maroney has her heart set on being an actress and a singer. She is now training in the arts, so we might see her topping the charts sometime soon…